Nosemonkey's EUtopia

In search of a European identity

Berlusconi’s back – huzzah!

Aaaaah! Silvio… How I’ve missed you.

Italian politics had simply got a bit too dull under Prodi, what with him not holding a near monopoly in the Italian media, not trying to blatantly advance his own commercial interests through his high office, not re-writing the country’s electoral laws to give his own party an advantage, never having compared a German MEP to a Nazi concentration camp guard, having no connections to the Sicilian mafia, not bribing the husband of a British cabinet minister to help him launder money and give false evidence in a trial, and not having been brought to trial countless times for corruption, false accounting, tax fraud and the like – nor ever being found guilty of perjury in a case involving the freemasons.

Great entertainment value, is Silvio. Gloriously inappropriate as a national leader for pretty much any European country other than Italy.

(Apologies for not covering the Italian elections much, by the way – great fun, but far too complicated for a non-expert to attempt to explore in the sort of detail they deserve without spending far more time than I’ve currently got doing the research… Here’s a handy bit of background, though.)

10 Comments

  1. Great entertainment value, is Silvio. Gloriously inappropriate as a national leader for pretty much any European country other than Italy.

    For some reason this reminded me, are you still planning on voting Boris for mayor…?

  2. Ha ha ha!

    Yes, yes I am. But then again, don’t forget that I’m vaguely planning to emigrate at some point in the next few years…

    I’m increasingly coming to the opinion that politicians are only worth having if they provide entertainment value. On the European front amusement value was looking decidedly lacking – Sarkozy not being nearly as funny as I’d hoped, Merkel and Brown being as soporific as ketamin without any of the fun side-effects, the nutty fascist grouping in the European Parliament having broken up and Kilroy seemingly having shut up shop.

    (I’m going to miss Bush no end when he goes and all. Always good for a giggle. Who cares that he’s bankrupting and killing the world?)

  3. The Bumbler of Brussels(Prodi) and his forty thieves are gone, the extreme radical left (communists & greens) is no longer part of the Italian parliament, and a successful man who knows well how to make Italy work is the new prime minister. Life is good.

    Meanwhile, the British gov’t is led by by a boorish liar, and the gov’t’s answer to the breakdown of society is more cameras and higher taxes. And you think that the Italians have an inappropriate leader and/or poor leadership? bwah-ha-ha-ha-ha

  4. OK, I’ve not got a great deal of time for Gordon Brown, but to call him a liar when Berlusconi’s actually been convicted of perjury (not to mention given three jail terms for bribery and corruption) is a bit steep, surely? I mean, seriously?

    And how does he know how to make Italy work, exactly? If I recall correctly, it was his last term in office that put Italy in the dire economic situation it’s currently in. (There‘s your comparison with Gordon Brown – he can hardly blame the economy on anyone else when he’s been Chancellor for the last decade, just as Berlusconi can hardly blame Italy’s woes on anyone else when he’s been its Prime Minister for five of the last seven years.)

  5. By Italian standards, Berlusconi is a choirboy. It’s a matter of “he may be a crook, but he’s my crook.” Also, he actually only has been convicted once in 1990, and that conviction was vacated because of the amnesty law of 1989 (the law helping a list of Whos Who of Italian politics). All other charges have been overturned on appeal. Unlike the UK, in the Italian political game, the courts are an active tool when the left is not in power. I predict more “indictments” will flood from the Milan judges now that Berlusconi is in power, “indictments” that were not seemingly important to these paragons of virtue when Berlusconi was in opposition. Prodi came in, raised taxes, and failed to continue the work reforms of Berlusconi and choked what little life Berlusconi’s government had breathed into the weak Italian economy. Italy begins as a mess and almost a third world approach to efficiency and integrity so the challenges are tremendous for any government. Berlusconi has had the most successful government post WW2. Yes, by former UK standards Italy looks grim, but the progress will take time and a firm leader. That’s Silvio even as he verbally tweaks his opponents. The UK used to be a first world country in efficiency and integrity. Labor has reduced the citizens to penury and seemingly is efficient only in its ability to harry the common man. Even the more left leaning papers such as the Guardian are beginning to squeal about the high rates of taxation and gross inefficiencies. So, it will be interesting to see who makes more progress: Berlusconi in Italy, or Brown in the UK. I think Berlusconi will be around for many years after Brown is tossed out by his own party due to Brown’s feckless leadership. Sadly, I am not aware of any better candidates on the horizon in any party in the UK. Any suggestions?

  6. Without wanting to sound rude (I don’t generally like to abuse people who leave comments here), your arguments in favour of Berlusconi seem to apply equally to dictatorship (“the most successful government post WW2… the progress will take time and a firm leader”, etc.). Combined with your claims about “penury” having increased in the UK in the last ten years (flying in the face of all facts, not to mention my own experience), I’ve begun to think you’re either taking the piss or are a verbose 6th former just returned from debating society.

  7. Actually you are wrong on all counts for authorship. I’ll ignore the ad hominem comments. Your observations about a dictatorship’s characteristics could be accurate. I had the same thought as I was writing the previous post. But that is neither the intent of my observations about Berlusconi nor his goal from what I can tell. Certainly neither stark efficiency nor a pure pragmatism is the end-all in good governance. Certain notable aspects of 20th century European history once again demonstrated the folly of that road. I merely was trying to point out the real mess Berlusconi faces (or any leader of an Italian government). He seemingly has the best set of tools given the Italian political culture and the economic times. Terms such as “herding cats” or “beating one’s head against the wall” come to mind when reading about organizing Italian politics of the past thirty years or so. It is in that context I mention a “firm hand,” not in the dictator mode. My understanding of the reforms of Lady Thatcher is that these could be termed as coming from a “firm hand,” and certainly dictatorship would not have been the form of her government. I’m glad to hear you disagree personally with the slide of the standard of living in the UK this past decade. I have a bit of trouble finding that thread in the UK press reports, as well as in the experiences of my limited contacts in the UK. Both of these types of sources increasingly speak of a falling standard of living over the past decade, at least anecdotally. That said, I freely admit that since I do not live in the UK, I am handicapped for any sort of firsthand observations.

  8. Sorry old boy – but when someone turns up with phrases like “the bumbler of Brussels” I’ve learned through bitter experience that they’re likely going to be a nutter, hence interpreting your follow-up in the most negative light.

    Reading again, you may have a point in there – Italian politics certainly is chaotic enough that something radical is probably needed, as the fragile coalitions of the last sixty years simply don’t seem to be able to hold together long enough to see through any meaningful, lasting reforms. I very much doubt Berlusconi is the man to do it, though he is almost certainly the best-known option currently knocking around and so it’s little surprise that people may opt for him – and I can see how people might think that a successful businessman may be a good option.

    I see him more as a political dilettante who’s used high office to advance his own interests rather than those of the country, and feel strongly that anyone convicted of perjury should be disqualified from political office – especially when implicated in so many other counts of bribery, corruption and the like (and sentenced to six and a half years in prison over the course of his career, albeit all overturned on appeal) and many of which have been properly investigated or dropped thanks to laws Berlusconi himself passed, or to Italy’s seemingly excessively short statute of limitations.

    (On the British front, even the Tories have never claimed the economic situation’s got worse during the last ten years – bar the post-credit crunch jitters of the last 6-12 months – they’ve always backed up Brown’s claims of “the longest period of sustained growth since records began” by pointing out that they were in office when it started. Standards of living have also risen consistently during Labour’s time in office, like them or not. Hell, even the Daily Mail agrees, and it’s hardly known to be a Labour cheerleader. This is why there are currently so many complaints in the UK – we’re coming out of a boom that everyone hoped would last forever.)

  9. Thanks for the reply. No nutter here, just a literate reader with an alliterative flair, perhaps too much at times. It’s an occupational hazard. Berlusconi, however, is not really such a political dilettante when set in the Italian political context. Italy is such an “other” when compared with an UK model of governance that I think many fail to see the situation for what it is. While I loathe this type of relativistic thinking I am writing here, nevertheless it seems to be a fairer appraisal of Italian politics than what I find in most of the European press or commonly held view of Berlusconi as a result of that reporting. Context: Can you imagine a UK politician having a campaign theme song entitled, “Meno male che Silvio c’รจ”? (Thank goodness for Silvio) That is vintage Italian bravado and at the heart of what it is to be Italian. That song was a smash hit in Italy. (Thank goodness for Tony? for Gordon? for David? Probably not. Maybe for Boris, but that’s quite another story, eh?) Rosemary Righter’s “Silvio Berlusconi: Mr Clean and Sober” in today’s TimesOnline seems to have about the right balance along with her other articles of recent days. The comments which follow the article, however, are often quite over the top as those with a less balanced view unload on both Righter and Berlusconi. (Thanks for the links to the economic info on the UK. That helps put the isolated anecdotes in better context. It will be interesting to see if what is happening now is merely a normal cyclical bust of a boom, or the result of what some see as an increasingly regulated and overtaxed economy which portends tough times over a long time for the UK. Sorry to be ever the skeptic. I wish only the very best for the UK and her people, and I am not looking to win an argument here or merely “score points.”) Cheers.

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